A NEW specialist emergency assessment unit for older patients has been launched at Southampton General Hospital.

Around 25 people aged over 80 visit the hospital with medical emergencies every 24 hours and, until now, would have been assessed and treated in the emergency department prior to admission to a ward.

They are now moved on arrival to a new frailty unit, based in acute medicine, where they receive rapid assessment by a team led by consultant geriatricians Dr Gayle Strike and Dr Daniel Baylis.

The five-bed facility currently operates for eight hours a day but is expected to extend to 12 hours a day.

Dr Strike said: “We have been working extremely hard to improve the quality of care provided to older people as they are often frail and tended to spend a long time within the emergency department prior to being admitted.

“Patients are identified as soon as they present to hospital and, rather than spending time on a trolley in the emergency department, they are taken to our dedicated unit which is a quieter and less disruptive environment.”

Following assessment by a team of experts which includes a consultant geriatrician, patients are given a clear plan with the aim of facilitating a smooth admission and minimising their length of stay.

Dr Strike added: “Through this access to specialist review, we hope to be able to get people back home where appropriate and, when that is not possible, to simplify their admission and minimise their length of stay in hospital.”

As part of the initiative, UHS has worked in partnership with clinical commissioning groups, surrounding NHS trusts and councils to ensure the development aids improvements in access to community care.

Dr Baylis, who is the clinical lead for acute medicine and medicine for older people at UHS, said: “We are grateful to our partner organisations for working closely with us to ensure we maximise the benefit of such a positive new project.”